Wake Tech tells lawmakers money needed to keep up with demand

Posted March 7, 2012 6:14 p.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2012 7:30 p.m. EST

— Wake Technical Community College leaders told lawmakers Wednesday that they are concerned about a lack of state funding when demand for classes is at record levels.

About 1,000 students apply to Wake Tech's nursing program every semester, for example, but the school can't accommodate more than 275. President Stephen Scott said the college wants to expand the nursing program because it can't turn out nurses fast enough to keep up with demand on the local job market.

"Money's tight, but our students can get jobs with the training they can obtain here at Wake Tech. Consequently, that's money really well spent," Scott said. "We need resources. We need buildings and faculty and equipment, and all of that equates to dollars."

Other Wake Tech programs, such as electronics, construction and heating and air conditioning service, also are popular with applicants, he said, noting the college wait-listed 12,000 students last year. The recession has sent enrollment skyrocketing, as people try to pick up new skills to make them more qualified for jobs, he said.

"If you multiply that by what they could be making versus being unemployed, you're talking about $400,000 or $500,000 in income that could be earned in Wake County," he said.

State lawmakers cut community college spending by 11 percent last year to help erase a budget deficit. They said spending likely won't be going up this year.

"We try to do what we can, but it's a situation where you don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul," said Rep. Bryan Holloway, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "Could we put the money into the (community college) program? Yes, but where will that money come from?"

One place lawmakers could look for more money is tuition.

North Carolina's in-state tuition is low compared with nearby states, but colleges have raised tuition by 20 percent in recent years, and officials said they're not likely to tap students for more money this year.

Holloway, R-Stokes, said he is looking to secure more funding for colleges next year.

Christina Jackson, who is trying to get into Wake Tech's nursing program, said she hopes Holloway and other lawmakers find some money for the school.

"I just want to get in there and start working," Jackson said.